I recently watched an online lecture by George Jeronimidis at IAAC in Barcelona, with a serious discussion about the importance of Biology for Designers, Architects, Materials Scientists and Engineers. His explanations focused on the study of nature, human bones and insects by understanding its functions and not imitating nature’s physical parts as tectonic; finding interesting plants and animal functions to get outstanding results. As he described this process, by defining Biomimetics, he mentioned functional biomimetic, with the suggestion to always extract the principles of the studied specie:
Capture functional attributes of living organisms and translate them into innovative technological solutions.
While watching I remembered back in my third year of School of Architecture at Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico, where the design class teacher assigned us to investigate about sustainable animal systems and base our designs on it’s functions. I found this amazing animal, the african lungfish, a prehistoric specie that can breathe through gills and lungs when required, an amphibian, which also has the capacity of estivating (a dormant or torpor state under dry hot climates), when dry hot season comes and rivers evaporate. Upon water reducing inside the river, this fish carves a tunnel on the bottom of the river. When inserted a few feet down, he expedites a mucous that when dry, it hardens creating a cocoon for estivation and self-protection.
The estivating part was the most captivating, although class required other issues, today I want to concentrate on how this animal can be capable of sleeping for 2 years if necessary and preserve himself in the process without dropping it’s body temperature.
Henry Swan II, an American surgeon who “pioneered the use of hypothermia to make possible the first open-heart surgeries”-according to Profiles in Science-, between 1953- 1963. After this he was suggested to study the lungfish because of its estivating ability and possibly understanding it as a solution for putting his patients under hypothermic state based on his studies. He understood that what makes the lungfish torpor for so long is an anti-metabolic substance, released when temperature rises and stabilizing the fish’s body, calling it “antabolone”. After further analysis, he extracted and tested the substance on a rat and was able to reduce its temperature and slow down its metabolism. Pretty neat right?
The next video will explain the life processing of the lungfish.
Now these two strategies: estivation and self preserving surfacing are the extraordinary abilities that can be abstracted and utilized in Architecture no less. How could it look like? What I previously tried to design as a student I have to say, wasn’t exactly what I could think of today. Now more and more interested in materials and science, I have bigger thoughts about this.
Let me wonder more: Could Architecture estivate like a lungfish? Is it possible to create a material that can adjust to climate or natural events in order to protect itself or a space? Is it mechanical? Questions require answers! Give me your thoughts on this!
Profiles in science: National Library of Medicine. National Institute of Health. 2013. The Henry Swan Papers. Learning from the lungfish: studies of hibernation, 1963-1988., Bethasada, MD., 13 November 2013. <http://profiles.nlm.nih.gov>
Jeronimidis, George. Iaac Lecture Series 2013-2014. Biomimetics and Bioinspiration: Smart Solutions For Functional Architecture. Nov. 2013. 11 November 2013. <http://youtu.be/ecol5SuBlMY>.
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